Competitions nos. 107A and 107B: results

In April 1932, the people of Wales (as they do) presented the six-year-old Princess Elizabeth of York (remember, she wasn’t next in line to the throne, but third in line, after her father and uncle) with a wendy house. A toy house. Except that it was (and is) a little bigger than that. It was presented in Cardiff and then disassembled for the journey to London. Unfortunately, the vehicle carrying it had some kind of accident, and the wendy-house caught fire. It had to be repaired. This is what’s behind the competition set by Norman Collins. He imagines it having burned completely, and asks for a fragment of an elegy in the style of early Masefield (the new poet laureate) on ‘The Destruction By Fire Of The Princess’s Toy House’. For good measure, he reminds readers of a Masefield poem ‘The Everlasting Mercy’, and these lines in it:


Here’s the ‘toy’ house, ‘Y Bwythyn Bach’, in 1932:

Y Bwythyn Bach

Jocelyn Lea comes close, as does W.A. Rathkey. Collins notes that the majority of the entries seemed to contain the word ‘bloody’, including his two winners, the veteran W. Hodgson Burnet, and Muriel Malvern.



Another recent news item (this may be the first competition to have a flavour of competitions much later in the century) was the weird occurrence, on March 17th, at the opening of the Sydney Bridge, a ribbon on which was due to be cut by Jack Lang, the socialist prime minister. But before he could step forward, Captain Francis de Groote (sometimes given as de Groot), who was a right-wing agitator who had joined a near-fascist political outfit, the New Guard, rushed forward on horseback and cut the ribbon with a sword (or with his horse’s hooves, by some accounts). Collins asks for a presentation speech to Captain de Groote on the handing over of what a shilling fund might have raised for him.

De Groote

De Groote cuts the tape

Guy Hadley is one of the few to be commended, because Collins is not that impressed with the entrants, but the guinea goes to W. A. Rathkey (obviously on form this week, and winning for the first time) and the runner-up is J.H.G. Gibbs.



Rathkey has been mentioned as an occasional poet and writer of librettos and introductions to art journals in an earlier instanceof his being a runner-up.

In this edition (April 9th 1932), there appears a letter from Guy Hadley, who has just been commended, which has a suggestion for Gerald Barry:


Competitions nos. 106A and 106B: results

Humbert Wolfe returns to the fray with a request for a poem (‘no more than twenty lines’) rebuking Flora for having invented the fritillary (it is very hard to get under Wolfe’s skin and get a sense of what drives him, but you can read about Fritillaria here). This is a competition which attracts familiar names to the near-winners’ enclosure, including Dermot Spence, W. Hodgson Burnet, Lester Ralph, William Bliss, and, naturally, the ‘accomplished’ T.E. Casson. Issachar narrowly wins, with Prudence and Hilary being so, as it were, inseparable, that Wolfe asks if they can have a prize each. (This coy ‘meekly asking permission’ of the editor always means one thing – the other competition has gone wrong, and there is a half-guinea going spare.)

Here are the winners, all writing as if Eliot had never happened:



The other second prize I’ll have to type in:

Flora, can it really be
Your taste is lacking?
Or was it sheer fauity?
Or want of backing?
Some shortage in the scheme of things
That painted Fritillaria’s wings
Yet left you nought to clothe this waif
But the dull semblance of a leaf?
You clad the prettier ones in white,
The remainder in domestic checks.
I think you must admit it wasn’t right
Or fair to this poor child our eyes to [ ]*.
Forbar then to depress
Us, but for next year’s spring
A lovelier lily bring
With sprinkled silver on a cloth of gold
And to our sight unfold
An earthbound butterfly,
The true fritillary.


* There is plainly a word missing in the printed text, and the best I can suggest is ‘flex’.

Competition 106B could easily be set today – a list of the twelve worst phrases in journalistic use, the examples given being ‘acid test’ and ‘old Parliamentary hand’, both still with us. The results, though, says Wolfe, are disappointing (he says he nearly put ‘frankly disappointing’ , thereby adding another one to the list. He wants sloppy phrases not bad grammar or slogans. Wolfe provides a list of the twelve most common entries:


Numbers 2, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12 are certainly still around but not the others, I’d suggest. He allows one prizewinner, A. Raybould (a new name), who has 4 of these 12 in his entry:

If and when; gives furiously to think; to implement their promises; an inferiority complex; taking in one another’s washing; the psychological moment; making up on the swings what you lose on the roundabouts; getting together; exploring every avenue; a fair crack o’ the whip; placing their cards on the table; the eternal triangle.

Raybould’s list sounds dated apart from getting together, exploring every avenue, and maybe placing their cards on the table. It’s interesting to see the word ‘implement’ in there at such an early date (it’s a hate-word of mine, but I’ve always dated it as the 1980s, along with its buddy ‘proactive’).